It was the tale of two stars at the weekend box office, one who opened a film — Jennifer Lopez with Universal’s The Boy Next Door at $15M — and one who tanked — Johnny Depp with Lionsgate’s Mortdecai at $4.1M. The discrepancy between the two films showed one star, Lopez, who kept it cheap and met her audience’s wants head-on, and another, Depp, who at a high price lost himself in a zany caricature disconnected from reality.
Universal’s Blumhouse production Boy Next Door kept it lean and mean with a production budget of $4M, while Lionsgate/OddLot spent $60M on Mortdecai, a figure many still consider exorbitant for an avant garde Depp film in the wake of his spring sci-fi bomb Transcendence which cost $100M.
One studio executive summed it up perfectly today, saying, “Depp should take a page from Jennifer Lopez’s book and do a low-budget film that isn’t triple its box office. He needs to make his investors money, stop taking sizeable paydays, and take it from the back end.”
In the face of American Sniper, which has been a tsunami at the box office with $200M and counting, Universal’s Boy Next Door performed a bit better than what was initially expected for the thriller, making it Lopez’s highest opening in January — on track to beat The Wedding Planner’s $13.5M (final cume was $60M).
Boy Next Door is a genre film, a woman-in-distress pic much like the ones Ashley Judd and Halle Berry have made before, as well as Lopez (ie, 2002’s Enough, pictured left). The actress plays a married teacher who has an affair with the young stud next door. When she tries to call it off, that’s when the trouble begins. Rival distribs think Boy Next Door will get to $38M stateside, and in relation to its budget, that makes the film a success. Boy Next Door earned a B- CinemaScore but played very well with Latin audiences (44%) and African Americans. Of those polled, moviegoers said they were there for Lopez.
Lopez was looking to do a Fatal Attraction-type popcorn thriller reminiscent of those in the 1980s and ’90s. She and producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who was behind the actress’ 2002 film Maid In Manhattan and her TV movie doc Jennifer Lopez: Dance Again, received a call from Blumhouse who was looking for the right lead for the Barbara Curry script.
Said Goldsmith-Thomas: “We loved the idea of investing in ourselves and taking no money upfront. Our attitude was, ‘Let’s put on a show.’ We all literally shared Jennifer’s trailer. We rehearsed at her house and she pulled costumes out of her closet. All the money was up on the screen and the idea of becoming a participant was the idea we embraced. We shot the film in 23 days.”
At the PGA Awards last night, Jason Blum gave props to Lopez’s CAA agent Kevin Huvane for pointing her in Blumhouse’s direction. “I’m grateful to her for trying our (production) system,” said Blum.
While Lionsgate vied to blast the word out about Mortdecai via myriad TV and web comedy promos, the tracking didn’t improve from week to week since the beginning of the year, as we detailed in the Saturday early AM box office report. Universal kept the marketing for The Boy Next Door razor-focused on Latin females, posting gains in weekly tracking. Further adding to Boy Next Door‘s profile with its targeted demo was the fact Lopez’s co-star Ryan Guzman is also Hispanic. Total awareness among females for the film grew from 53%-63% on January 4 to 78%-80% on January 16.
Lopez anchored her press tour in Miami, and visited such shows as Univision’s Despierta America for the first time as well as the network’s beauty pageant reality show Nuestra Belleza Latina. Lopez’s appearance on the season premiere of that primetime show registered a 22% uptick in ratings from its season premiere a year ago. In addition, interstitial spots were created for both the web and female TV networks such as Oxygen, with Lopez and Guzman talking about whether they ever had an obsessed attraction in a lover or a crazed suitor. Another win among fans was the tagline in the film’s trailer where Guzman’s character tells Lopez’s kids in the film, “I love your mother’s cookies.”
While Depp’s zany personalities may be ripe for such franchises properties as Alice In Wonderland and Pirates Of The Caribbean, many believe outside of that, Depp’s offbeat alter-egos aren’t working. “When he did films like Donnie Brasco — what resonated was that he played a real thug; a gritty person coming from a real place like the characters Al Pacino use to play,” said one distribution executive. “The world is crying out now — they don’t want movies like Mortdecai from Johnny Depp! He needs to be really careful about what he takes next.”
Up next for Depp is Warner Bros’ Whitey Bulger biopic about the organized crime figure. The film isn’t being groomed as a blockbuster, but it could be a contender for Depp in next year’s awards season. Additionally, he has Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 which is going into production in two weeks for release in 2017. There’s also Alice In Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass which has a release date of May 27, 2016. If Depp doesn’t work in the latter two Disney franchises, his B.O. draw will truly be out of whack, and he could face a similar career fate as Nicolas Cage, who after failing to deliver on a number of action films was done in by Disney’s $150M Sorcerer’s Apprentice which bombed in the U.S. and Canada. In the wake of Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Cage has largely been relegated to independent, sub-par action films.
Added another distribution suit: “Johnny Depp needs a new franchise. I’m not sure what he means in Pirates Of The Caribbean any more. He has run his course.”